Ellen grew up in La Mesa, California where she received a B.S. degree in Physics from San Diego State University. She went on to Stanford University where she earned a M.S. and doctorate in Electrical Engineering.
During her doctorate and a little while after, she studied optical information processing. She is the co-inventor for an optical inspection system, an optical object recognition method, and method of removing noise from images. She was the chief of the Intelligent Systems Technology Branch at NASA Ames Research Center where she supervised many engineers and scientists on aerospace computational research. She has also published many papers in scientific journals.
In 1990, Dr. Ochoa was selected to be an astronaut for NASA’s space shuttle program. On her first mission in 1993 aboard the shuttle Discovery, she conducted a 9 day study of solar and atmospheric activity on Earth’s climate where she used the Remote Manipulator System to release and capture the Spartan sattelite.
On her second mission in 1994, Dr. Ochoa was the Payload Commander for the Atlantis Atmospheric Laboratory for Applications and Science. For this mission, she studied the sun’s irradiance changes and the effect that it has on Earth’s environment. Again, Dr. Ochoa used the RMS to retrieve the research satellite.
Her third mission, aboard Discovery in 1999 was to perform the first docking for the International Space Station. She coordinated the delivery of 4 tons of supplies to prepare for the first crew to live on the station.
On Dr. Ochoa’s last mission in 2002, aboard the Atlantis, she visited the International Space Station and used the RMS to not only install the SO Truss, but also to move space walkers around the station. This was the first time this was done.
Ellen was the first Latina woman to enter space. She has received numerous NASA, science, and engineering awards. She is currently the Deputy Director of the Johnson Space Center.
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